By Dr Aaron McMurtrie
There is a wide variety of mouthguards commercially available through chemists and sports shops. Most of them are the classic two or three sizes fits all and the finalization of the fit involves heating the product to mould it as accurately as possible to an individual’s arch.
From a professional’s point of view, they are better than nothing. Their purpose in life is for the situation where you’re already travelling to the game and you have no idea where you put your real mouthguard. You purchase it on the way, borrow some hot water from the nearest take-away and hope for the best.
There is no substitute for real protection, and that comes from someone who is often called upon to repair the injury.
Professional mouthguards have varied over the years. Some have gone as far as air pockets to cushion the blow. Others introduced EVA reinforcements across the front to give the illusion of invincibility, much like a bull bar. Too much bulk compromises the comfort, and too much rigidity means you’ll break your face instead.
Your best protection is provided by a custom made, laminated, and articulated mouthguard constructed on an impression taken from both your top and bottom teeth. The lamination provides the strength and flexibility to share the blow across a wider area. The custom fit provides comfort to wear it for the entire game while yelling at your mates or screaming at the opposition.
An impression of the lower arch is important to register the location of your opposing teeth into the mouthguard. This provides significant protection for your lower teeth, your lower jaw and jaw joint, the TMJ. Sometimes articulation is achieved by gently heating the mouthguard surface and seating the model of the bottom teeth into the mouthguard during construction. This may displace the material and compromise fit and retention. The best results are achieved by mechanically trimming the mouthguard to fit the opposing teeth before polishing. Such care is time consuming and adds a little to the cost of the guard, but it is well worth the few dollars more.
A professionally made articulated mouthguard will affordably provide the best protection money can buy, but it is still no substitute for ducking and avoiding using your face as an offensive weapon.
Mouthguards are essential to any sport where you risk a solid smack in the chops.
Remember, prevention is better than cure.